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Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War II Asia Japan Robert Leckie Penguin

30th July 2011 History Books 24 Comments

Military historian Leckie covers the fierce battle between American and Japanese troops for the island of Okinawa throughout the spring of 1945.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

On this 50th anniversary of the battle of Okinawa (April to June 1945), we can expect an avalanche of titles about this last major battle of World War II. Okinawa was an epic amphibious-air-sea-land battle the likes of which may never be seen again. The conflict raged for 83 days; 13,000 Americans and 100,000 Japanese perished. Kamikazes sank 34 and damaged 361 U.S. vessels. Both Astor and Leckie are experienced military historians who tell their stories in the words of participants. Astor interviewed numerous veterans and compiled a masterful account of the battle as seen through the eyes of both American and Japanese survivors. He explores the history, training, and morale of the army and marine divisions and demonstrates why each was bound to succeed or fail. On the other hand, Leckie has written a “Monarch Notes” version of the battle that tells us nothing new. For the best history of the Okinawa campaign, readers should consider James and William Belote’s Typhoon of Steel: The Battle for Okinawa (1970).?Stanley Itkin, Hillside P.L., New Hyde Park, N.Y.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Marine and Pacific war veteran Robert Leckie retells the epic story of the battle of Okinawa from both sides. Strikingly intimate portraits of the Japanese generals, the American soldiers, and their commanding officers brilliantly illuminate those individuals who fought in this bloody confrontation. of photos.

Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War II

Strong Men Armed: The United States Marines Against Japan

“This is a carefully researched history of the Marines from Guadalcanal to Okinawa,” said LJ’s reviewer of this title, which incorporates information from both American and Japanese sources. Offering the points of view of enlisted men and officers alike for a balanced look at the battles, the text is bolstered with numerous photos and maps. For public and academic military collections.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Written by Robert Leckie, whose wartime exploits will be featured this spring in the upcoming Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg HBO miniseries The Pacific, Strong Men Armed has been a perennial bestselling classic account of the Pacific theater in World War II. As scout and machine-gunner for the First Marine Division, Leckie fought in all its engagements until his wounding at Peleliu. Here he uses firsthand experience and impeccable research to re-create the nightmarish battles of the Pacific campaign.
Strong Men Armed: The United States Marines Against Japan

  • 24 responses to "Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War II Asia Japan Robert Leckie Penguin"

  • that sucked!
    12:57 on July 29th, 2011
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    If you are going to read about the war in the Pacific (re World War II) this is the first book you should read. It is very comprehensive and provides you an excellent understanding of how the Pacific War graduated, island-by-island, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa. It keeps everything in perspective. The author writes in a very reader-friendly manner; maps are good; and the Marine story is dealt with in a straightforward manner with appropriate references to what other units (such as the Army and the Navy) were doing while Marine action was occuring. The only problem I had was “what happened to Pappy Boyington?” The author intersperses major events with little interesting “side stories,” such as Boyington shooting down Japanese planes, and later he being captured, and later Boyington on Truk cussing and with the Japanese pilots threatening to kill him. So what happened to Boyington? Otherwise an excellent and comprehensive account, very readable and, like another reviewer states, very re-readable.

  • Karla Shelton
    18:19 on July 29th, 2011
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    I read this book while my husband (with his family in tow) was stationed at Butler on Okinawa. We lived on Kinser, visited the ER on Lester, shopped at Courtney, Foster & Kadena (ect.), and visited every base on the Island over the 3 years we were there.

    I thought Leckies books was both powerful & noble in the telling of the Battle for Okinawa. I could actually SEE the battle as my family & I visited memorials and battle sites. Leckie’s book brought it all to life for me.

    Here’s something of intrest for all those who read Mr. Leckie’s book; The Camp Kinser Commissary is built on the site of a former temp. cemetery for those who died in the battle for Sugar Loaf Hill. There wasn’t a trip for groceries at Kinser that I wasn’t reminded why my Marine was on Oki.

  • Satish KC
    22:59 on July 29th, 2011
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    This thin book is amazing for the amount of basic detail and information. It was great for getting a simple start on my genealogy project for a general understanding of what the invasion was about and for a non-military reader. It’s easy to read and highly recommend to WWII history buffs. Only complaint I had was the high price for the size of the paperback book.

  • PaulTheZombie
    0:08 on July 30th, 2011
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    This is the fourth book I’ve read on the battle fought on and around Okinawa. It is the thinnest in length and in content – packs a lot for a little book – but not quite enough for a student of military history. Unfortunately – many good books have come before – and the book just doesn’t measure up in comparison.

    The author sets a trap for himself if he intended a compact book with all necessary players and events that shaped this battle. He does a good job of tracing the conflicts within the US and Japanese command structures – insolence on the part of Japanese junior officers leading to poor advice/unnecessary slaughter – to outright disobediance of orders on the US side on the part of Douglas MacArthur who unnecessarily invaded inconsequential southern Philippine Islands – rather than divert his military resources to the Okinawa campaign as ordered.

    All the pieces for a great read are here – except nothing was developed in enough depth to put the reader THERE. Other books, such as “The Old Breed” and even Samuel Morison’s “Two Ocean War” do the battle events greater justice as although more limited in scope (USMC or US Navy centric) the reader of these books is given a more in depth understanding of the parts these entities played in the battle.

    Okinawa was essentially 10 wars fought in tandem:

    1. The Japanese ‘Land War’
    2. The Japanese ‘Naval War’
    3. The Japanese ‘Air War’
    4. The Okinawa civilians ‘war refugees and victims’
    5. The US Army ‘Land War’
    6. The US Army Logistics Effort’
    7. The US ‘Surface Navy War’
    8. The US Navy ‘Air War’
    9. The US Marine Corps ‘Land War’
    10. The US Marine Corps ‘Air War’

    This is much too much data for a 200 some odd page book – no matter how compactly written and craftily edited. Uncomfortably – one admires how well one zips through the pages, until one realizes he/she just got a ‘Cliffs Notes’ version of some of the important and/or major events.

    Major players and heros got premier treatment – valor recognized mainly for the land battle participants. Sailors were not so prominently featured – as the land battle took the lead in the book.

    The amount of damage inflicted on the US Fleet turned out to be a Japanese disappointment – as the US Navy landed and supported the ground campaign throughout the entire battle. More damage to US ships was expected, and the Japanese leaders deliberately inflated their combat statistics not as not to lose face in light of their commands efforts.

    The author indeed does a good job of fighting his way out of his own trap of limited space. The editing is to be admired – but the content falls short of a historical standard that does this battle justice.

  • pop frame
    2:59 on July 30th, 2011
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    excellent book i would recommend reading this book to anyone this is a master piece by someone who lived through an ordeal and gave tremendously for the fight for piece and his country

  • TrafficWarden
    3:23 on July 30th, 2011
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    Robert Leckie is one of the best writers of history and this maybe his best work. This is a clear, concise, comprehensive account of the Island War in the Pacific. Clearly written, Leckie puts his reader into the picture while teaching, producing a potent combination of entertainment and learning. You can get hooked on history reading Leckie; I did as a teenager.

    Robert Leckie lived many of these actions and his personal experiences makes the narration more real as the reader senses his feelings and experiences. However, this is a history not a personal account and we never get lead down the path of experience. This is the best account of the Island War ever written by a top-flight author.

  • The Dealer
    10:30 on July 30th, 2011
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    Robert Leckie’s vivid account of WWll Marine Corps history is a must read for any military enthusiast. Reading this gripping tale of Leathernecks fighting their way through the steamy jungles of the far east isles with such distant names as; Guadacanal, Saipan, and Iwo Jima, will leave you with an unequvical respect for the valient men who sacrificed their lives for our country. As a former Marine I have a greater appreciation for the price that was paid in the Pacific Theater. This book will never let me forget the cost in blood and lives my beloved countrymen paid, so that we may have our freedom. Leckie’s book memorializes our fighting Marines: Men like, Manila John Bastilone, Chesty Puller, Red Mike Edson, and countless others who,”went above and beyond the call of duty”, for the love of our country, God, and Corps. STRONG MEN ARMED, should be read by every boot, NCO, and Commissioned Officer of the United States Marine Corps as a reminder of the heroic and gallant sacrifice our Marines paid for our way of life. May the Marine Corps live forever!

    Semper Fidelis, Roger Lemus (Cpl.USMC)

  • Saner Rijet
    17:25 on July 30th, 2011
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    As a former marine my experiences during my 16 years of service pale in comparison to the experiences of these men who carried the war to the Japanese. Written by a infantryman, Mr. Leckie know’s better then anyone what those experiences are like. This book brings the reader right to the beaches and jungles where Marines wrote a new page in their history. With the passing of time fewer and fewer of these men are alive. This book should be required reading of every high school and college student. We must never forget what these men gave to every American and every person in the world. We must never forget the sacrifices they made, and they made these sacrifices without question. Mr. Leckie should be commended.

  • cjinsd
    0:00 on July 31st, 2011
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    Those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr Leckie have been missing out. He is one of the premier military historians, not only because of his excellent writing style, but because he is a combat veteran and can therefore associate with his subject. He has written wonderful general histories of all of America’s wars, including the best WWII summary, Delivered from Evil.

    But this book stands tall among all of his other writings because this one was personal. Leckie is a veteran of many bloody battles with the first Marine division in WWII and therefore knows quite well what he is talking about. Here he takes you on a sweeping journey, as the marines battle the japs across the Pacific. His writing is awesome! He always keeps you on the hook, and as you speed through his very short chapters, you find it hard to find a place to stop. This is a very easy read, including well drawn maps, that will give you a good overall history of the Pacific campaign and still show you the war from the individuals perspective on every page.

    One of the classics of Pacific WWII literature!!!

  • Now what?
    8:26 on July 31st, 2011
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    Strong Men Armed is a book where you should read the bibliographical note first. Robert Leckie, who served in the Marines on the `Rock and Peleliu, cites his three main sources, Marine battle monographs, Army histories and the books of Samuel Elliott Morison. There are some Japanese sources (not many were available back in 1962 when this was written), personal memoires, narratives, news articles of the time and each Medal of Honor Citation received by a Marine in WW2. Not included are the contributions of the Army, even when they fought along side of the Marines, because this is a book about Marines, for Marines and by a Marine.

    This is not a dry book stuffed with facts. Read this and you’ll get the history, but with a flair for a man who participated in these history making events. He makes no bones about his perspective, nor should he. This is well written, solid history – it seems to be at its best when describing the early battles in which Leckie fought. As each campaign is told, less and less coverage is devoted to the story. Okinawa, the last amphibious assault, gets 26 pages vs. 126 pages on Guadalcanal.

    The maps are rudimentary, just a few photos to give you an idea of what island fighting looked like. A history that stands the test of time well, it also gives you a flashback to a time before revisionist historians, contrarians and nay-sayers got published.

  • Ripel
    10:19 on July 31st, 2011
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    I thought the book was good, but I was looking for Robert Leckie’s accounts on Okinawa. This book was a more iformational book than one Marine’s time on Okinawa.

  • Markoc
    12:47 on July 31st, 2011
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    Robert Leckie is the best author I have ever seen detailing the wars in U.S. History. This book is another great story detailing the Marines struggle against the Empire of Japan. Because Mr. Leckie was a participant, this offering provides greater detail of the battles than most of his books. He really gives good descriptions of the people and places where the battles were fought and the courage of the Marines and Japanese as they were locked in a life or death struggle. This is an excellent book on the ground war in the Pacific.

  • Jim Levitt
    18:32 on July 31st, 2011
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    I do believe that Robert Leckie tried to write a comprehensive history of the Battle for Okinawa, but somehow gave way to writing a superficial, grab bag story that tries to tell everything but just bounces around. We can see the history of the area, of Japan’s conquest of the island and of the development of the Samurai spirit in Japan. But then what is lacking is any real investigation and substance about what it all means and the larger context for the battle.

    A case in point is that we hear a great deal about the attacks of the Kamikaze plans on the American fleet at Okinawa, but just as it seems he is about to go into more detail, Leckie pulls back and goes into some background story or piece about the land battle. Similarly, he focuses extensively on regimental names and assignments but rarely does he go into the suffering that soldiers, marines and sailors experienced during the battle. If he does, it is only on a very think level.

    This is a good enough book if you’re interested in a superficial history of the Battle, but for people with a genuine interest in it, you’re better off elsewhere.

  • Karla Shelton
    23:54 on July 31st, 2011
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    An excellent overview of the US Marine Corps campaigns in the Pacific against the Japanese. The author conveys the intensity of the violence and difficulties faced by both the marines and the Japanese. I had not appreciated how tenuous the Guadalcanal campaign was and how close to disaster it came. Leckie also outlines the gradual shift of the Japanese attempts to defeat the marines (i.e. ‘win’) to a strategy of inflicting as many casualties as possible, knowing they would ultimately be defeated, in the hopes that the US would be forced to negotiate a peace settlement. As I read the book, I was struck by the similarities with the present anti-terrorist campaign in Iraq. They cannot win in a classic military sense, but are willing to carry on in the hope they will inflict as many casualties as possible, breaking the will of the US. Overall, an excellent read and a very good reference for anyone’s library.
    JM Garrick
    Cdr USN (Ret)

  • Dagmar Naguin
    10:14 on August 1st, 2011
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    The Last Battle of World War II Robert Leckie

    The author describes in detail the various battles using landmarks on maps. Unfortunately, the book has not a single map. If you want to read this book, get your own detailed map of Okinawa to try and follow along.

    The author at the end tries to say that Truman thought the use of the a bomb was a mistake using a letter he wrote to his sister at the time saying that the decision to bomb was a terrible decision. Obviously, the decision was terrible. He knew that many thousands would die. The decision was not a mistake however, and Truman never said that it was.

    As the Author points out, Okinawa was a compromise between what Adm King wanted, which was an invasion of Formosa, and Okinawa. Formosa had 3 times as many Japs defending it. King agreed, as Okinawa would also would provide a jumping off point, but to Kings chagrin, was not nearly as close to China, which King also wanted to help.
    Casualty estimates to attack Formosa were 150,000 Americans, much too costly.
    With Saipan taken, Iwo Jima and Okinawa were natural stepping stones to Japan. Taking Okinawa would also cut off the supply line of oil to Japan.
    Okinawa was to be the jumping off point for the invasion of Japan in the fall of 1945.

    The island was fortified and was made of coral. The Japs would also use the kamikaze for the first time in large numbers. The author spends a long time discussing the history and use of the kamikaze flyer. He discussed the Jap generals in charge of the defense of Okinawa. The kamikazes destroyed a bunch of Navy ships. Each is detailed by the author.
    The force invading was larger than the D Day invasion force in terms of ocean going ships, Navy firepower, tonnage, and numbers of troops invading. Ike had 150,000 troops invading, Gen Buckner had 184,000 invading. Kelly Turner was the Navy man in charge of getting the troops to shore. He had a habit of trying to manage the assault force after it got ashore too, and caused a bunch of fights with the Marine officer. Turner had screwed up the Guadalcanal invasion causing a bunch of Marines to be killed, so the Marines were not happy to have him in charge again.17 carriers were used.
    Okinawa was pounded for several days by the ships as they did not want to make the same mistake as at Iwo, which only 2 days bombardment by the ships left many Jap fortifications and Japs alive to kill Marines when they came ashore.
    Several medals of honor were won by the Navy, Marines, and Army.
    The Japs did not defend the beaches, so it was a couple of days before they came upon the enemy lines.
    The largest battleship afloat, then or now, the Yamato, made a one way kamikaze trip from Japan to try and use her 18 inch guns to stop the landings, but was sunk on its way there. It was hit by sub torpedoes, as well as by bombs and torpedoes from American Navy planes. The ships escorting her were also sunk.
    The death of Ernie Pyle is described.
    The battle of Kakazu ridge is discussed in detail
    The Japs mostly defended from fortified positions. When they came out for Banzai charges, they were slaughtered by the Americans.
    Two ammunition ships were lost to kamikazes on April 6, and the loss of the ammo was felt for a long time.
    Hodge made and attack and was hurled back by the Japs.
    The air force and Navy both attacked the kamikaze air bases.
    Army Gen Buckner, in charge of the Okinawa operation did not give the Marines a chance to make a behind the lines invasion that could have stopped the fighting a lot sooner. The Marines were not suffering the ammunition shortage the Army was, and could have done the invasion.
    The Navy was getting tired of Buckner’s slow progress, and they wished that Marine Gen Holland Smith was in charge. The quicker the invasion was over, the quicker the navy ships could move out of range of the kamikazes.
    Adm Nimitz had loaned some of his ships to MacArthur, and wanted them back, but Mac refused, saying they were being used. Mac had invented a task for the ships so that he did not have to return them.
    May 7, an attack started and continued for days. Finally the Jap lines broke and the Jap generals killed themselves.
    According to the author, the capture of Okinawa finally convinced Emperor Hirohito that the Japs had lost the war. He now would help the peace group trying to find a way to stop the war.

  • PaulTheZombie
    11:23 on August 1st, 2011
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    The author himself fought as a Marine and firsthand accounts plus research on battles he missed made this book as real as it gets. Finish it and give the Marines a hard salute for the work they have done and with swift results. If only it comes with more photos but you can get other books to complement it such as This Is Guadacanal

  • Jolynn Ordona
    15:49 on August 1st, 2011
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    Three veterans of the First Marine Division have written accounts of WWII. E.B. Sledge in “With the Old Breed,” William Manchester in “Goodbye Darkness,” and Robert Leckie in “Strong Men Armed.”

    “With the Old Breed” and “Goodbye Darkness” are personal reminiscences, but “Strong Men Armed” is a scholarly study. It doesn’t dwell on personal experiences, but gives the vast panorama of the Navy/Marine Corps island hopping campaign, and helps to put Sledge’s and Manchester’s personal memoirs into the context of the whole war in the Pacific. Leckie does give his chronicle a personal touch by occasionally stopping to pay tribute to some of the matchless individual deeds heroism and sacrifice. One arresting theme is his account of each and every Medal of Honor awarded to Marines who threw themselves onto live hand grenades to save their comrades. (“Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”)

    Sledge’s book (“With the Old Breed”) is a plain spoken account of one man’s view of the horrors of the war in the Pacific. Manchester’s book (“Goodbye Darkness”) reads something like the out-loud ruminations of a mental patient working through unresolved issues on the psychiatrist’s couch. Leckie’s book is an epic account of a titanic struggle.

    For the Big Picture of the war in the Pacific, “Strong Men Armed” can’t be beaten. For a more personal look at the war, read “With the Old Breed.”

  • susies
    3:48 on August 2nd, 2011
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    To my knowledge, no other comprehensive presentation of the Pacific theater brings home the chilling reality of the US Marine Corps island campaign as Strong Men Armed by Robert Leckie. It’s all here: the frenzied horror of amphibious assault under massed fire, the slogging through sodden, malarial jungles, the hand-to-hand slugfest required to rid each island of an entrenched and implacable foe, and the truly uncommon selflessness that led to a multitude of Medal of Honor recipients.

    Gaudalcanal, Bougainville, New Britain, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other Pacific assaults are presented in detail from the perspective of enlisted and commissioned marines. Both infantry and air wing receive their due as Leckie is equally skilled at describing the Marine Corps aerial domination of the Japanese fighter and bomber.

    I’ve read my fair share of WWII history and it is in awe and suspense that I ripped through this gritty, sometimes ghastly, yet ultimately inspirational book. Leckie’s Strong Men Armed is a military masterpiece. I cannot offer a stronger recommendation. 5+ stars.

  • The Dealer
    10:55 on August 2nd, 2011
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    50 years old – has been superseded – in some ways lacks focus – in other, has much too much detail and is very repetitive

  • nedendir
    12:21 on August 2nd, 2011
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    I was just a bit disappointed with this particular work. The only words I can use, off the top of my head are “thin” and “shallow.” Fortunately, this was a fast and very easy read and was worth the small effort it took to read. As pointed out by other reviewers, there were no maps! It is difficult, if not impossible to glean helpful information in reference to battle with out them. There were many, many aspects of this particular battle which were briefly touched upon, but nothing in depth. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of this work is the fact that while I can complain about lack of information, etc. which is not really all that important, the true wonderful men who fought this battle, I feel, are quite short changed here. They, the men, deserve better. I suppose I can recommend this one if you want a brief overview, but other works should certainly be read and pondered.

  • Satish KC
    17:01 on August 2nd, 2011
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    This is a well written history of the battle and more. Having lived on Oki more than once and flown out of Kadena AFB, I have some first hand knowledge of this island battle.

  • PaulTheZombie
    18:10 on August 2nd, 2011
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    I have many of Leckie’s books about American history. His books are average reads generally. In this book, Leckie details the last battle of World War II and why Okinawa was picked as an island to be invaded by the Marines and U.S. Army. At a little over two hundred pages, it is an easy read and one can understand the ferocious fight that developed between the Americans and Japanese.
    Five chapters of this book deal with the kamikazes and the effects on the U.S. Navy. Only four pages deal with the attack on the Yamato, which I believe was a significant event of the battle for the island. The rest of the book concerns the desperate struggle for the island and the death or capture of the Japanese forces. As a previous reviewer has noted, some of battles for the island have been shorted or left out in this summary history. Leckie does include some interesting details, such as the fact 10,000 Japanese soldiers surrendered rather than commit suicide.
    This is an average read about a great battle. Leckie provides a lot of upfront history prior to explaining the great battle over the island, and this might lessen the interest of those who want to read about the subject of the book. Operation Iceberg is a more detailed book about this battle.

  • Obladi Oblada
    23:46 on August 2nd, 2011
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    Although twenty four years of age I have a deep respect and admiration for soldiers of the second world war, but my respect for the US Marine is unsurpassed. In Leckie’s book you will read easily the most enjoyable and heartbreaking overview of the titanic struggle between the United States and the Japanese Empire. Enjoyable because it is well written, flows beautifully, and honestly reads like an action thriller. (Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu and Iwo Jima were the best accounts in this book)But also heartbreaking because one has to realize that WWII was a war against good versus evil, nothing more. Liberals may hate me for that but the truth hurts sometimes. And the godawfull truth of WWII is that a lot of brave men had to die agonizing deaths or receive crippling injuries to insure that the evil in the world was vanquished. The Marines were the best of the best, then as well as now. Through superior technology, tactics, and an indomitable spirit the US Marine defeated the once feared Japanese Samurai. Let us be thankfull that Japan is an ally of the US now, and that (God willing) we will never have to fight each other again. I did not find this book to be overly critical of the Japanese, and although some will balk at the use of the slur “Japs” lets remember that Leckie was a Marine in the big one, he fought for his country and was injured on the line. Meaning he probably saw some of his best friends blown to bits by Japanese artillery or cut down by machine gun and rifle fire. Old hatreds die hard, and in “Strong men armed” you’ll never read a more moving tribute to the greatest of the greatest generation.

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